Changing climate requires first step

Editorial Staff

Our climate is changing due to human activity. But which activities are most responsible for this change?

Some environmentalists advocate for individually using less plastic, especially single-use plastics such as straws and water bottles, and encourage people to use reusable materials instead. However, it is not waste from an average person that should be a primary cause of worry. The best we can do in our daily lives—saving water, recycling and reusing materials and decreasing waste—will not be enough to make real change in the environment

Real change must come from the entities directly responsible for the rapidly worsening environment—the large corporations, such as ExxonMobil and Coca-Cola, that are virtually unchecked when it comes to environmental protection.

It is important for individuals to make good lifestyle choices, such as mindful use of water, recycling plastics and paper and repurposing clothing. However, eliminating one straw, two or even a hundred will not make a substantial difference to the environment.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eight million metric tons of plastic are dumped into oceans every day. Most of this waste has been out of our hands since it was produced; we have no power over where this waste will end up. While a few people can stop using plastic straws, it does not stop companies from producing them.

These companies have continued their processes for decades now because that is what makes them the most money. As they still make profits by using the cheapest materials and methods of disposal as possible, they will continue adding harmful materials to the environment. 

These companies are not being held accountable for the damage they instigate.

It is the individuals who are most impacted by these actions, and it is now the individual’s responsibility to advocate change. This change starts with an individual but expands much beyond individual reach. 

Checking companies involves voting and making public opinion heard. Public policy will do the most in regulating the amount of waste a corporation can produce. Involving the government would also involve federal investigations into company practices, something an average person cannot do. Those who care about the environment should educate themselves on the candidates and their positions on protecting the environment for future generations before casting their vote.

Even without much regulation, many corporations are already making an effort to better their practices. Setting goals for reform, sustainable growth and environmentally conscious education are all ways to allow the public and companies to work together to make an impact. One supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, Waitrose, aims to eliminate all plastic in their stores by 2023 and the San Francisco International Airport has banned plastic water bottles in response to public concerns.

Coppell ISD has fitted new schools with technology to help decrease the waste the district produces and sets a great example of how a larger organization can take into account the environment in new practices. Another important aspect of public environmental service is education—the city of Coppell holds environmental education classes at the Biodiversity Education Center in an effort to show community members how they can decrease waste in their own homes. All of this is a direct collaboration between public, legal and organization effort.

It is important to note this is a response to public interest; the members of Coppell elected officials on school and council boards who want to see Coppell lessen environmental impact, so these officials put in the effort in designing better schools and setting up ways for the public to participate. 

Coppell still has a ways to go in terms of environmental goals, but working with the public is a good start. For a member of the public, instead of simply encouraging others to be more environmentally friendly in their own lifestyles, urging officials to drive legislation that guides companies to being more transparent and clean with their processes is a more actionable goal. 

This isn’t just Coppell—this is Dallas and many other cities across the United States. With the increasing attention to the climate, more companies must follow suit, but little change will occur without public voice.